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(aka "Il Giardino del Finzi Contini" or "The Garden of the Finzi Continis")

 

NOTE: The Arrow, original Italian, title is LEFT (TOP), the Columbia, English credit title, is RIGHT (BOTTOM) - Eric says: "The novella uses "Finzi-Contini" but the author sued the production company to remove the hyphen from the title to distinguish the film from the source because he disapproved of the changes made to the film story."

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/desica.htm
Italy 1970

 

The wealthy Jewish-Italian Finzi Contini family live in a world of their own in their walled garden and villa in the Italian town of Ferrera. Home-schooled, terminally-ill Alberto (Helmut Berger, CONVERSATION PIECE) and his icy sister Micol (Dominique Sanda, THE CONFORMIST) rarely leave the estate; rather, they invite friends in to play on their tennis courts. For their friends, including Micol's childhood sweetheart Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio, THE HOUSE WITH THE LAUGHING WINDOWS), the garden of the Finzi Contini also allows them to shut out anxieties over the encroachment of fascism and Naziism and what that means for the town's large Jewish population (Giorgio has already been kicked out of the town's tennis club and may not be able to receive his degree). Giorgio's father (Romolo Valli, THE LEOPARD) is a fascist supporter and continues to defend the stripping away of Jewish rights with the excuse "at least we can still live" (even though his children are no longer allowed to attend state schools, Jewish citizens will no longer be listed in phone books, and cannot keep Aryan staff). When Giorgio is kicked out of the local library, Micol's father (Camillo Cesarei) allows him the use of his own impressive collection to work on his literature thesis, but Micol seems to have outgrown their childhood crush. At the same time, she seems uninterested in anyone else - although she seems to have a pretty unhealthy relationship with her brother - and only seduces Alberto's socialist friend Malnate (Fabio Testi, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?) to hurt Giorgio (and Alberto, since Visconti himself read an unrequited homoerotic attraction to Malnate into muse Berger's character). When Mussolini announces that Italy is going to war and the fascists start rounding up Jews, Giorgio has more to worry about than spurned love and the Finzi Contini may no longer be able to ignore the outside world.

GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI as a film began life as an unfilmable screenplay in 1963 before Vittorio De Sica's involvement. The producer approached De Sica in 1968, wanting something different from what Visconti or Bolognini would do with it (and for less money). De Sica and various writers went through a few more "horrible" drafts before he brought on Ugo Pirro (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION) to give it another go. De Sica finished SUNFLOWER in 1970 and had a bad experience with its producer Carlo Ponti, and took on GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI with a lower budget and mostly unknown actors with the exception of Capolicchio and Valli (Sanda was not yet known and Testi had only done a handful of westerns and war films before this). Although the film won an Academy Award for "Best Foreign Film" and several other international awards, it opened to poor reviews, and indeed it is not De Sica at his best. The dialogue is banal and most of the performances - save for Visconti favorite Valli - are bland. The Giorgio of the novel is a passive character remembering and imagining the story. He remains passive in the film, but the film fails to implicate him in the same self-deception as his father and the Finzi Contini (he rails about the latest restrictions on Jews intermittently). Micol remains an icy character and we never get a believable sense of why Giorgio likes her (his father suggests that it is because she seems less Jewish). The pacing is also uneven - we only know that Micol has been away in Venice for "so long" because she says so as the film does not really render the extent to which Giorgio misses her (other than a hangdog expression and underlining music in the scene where he is told that she has left). The only plot point of Giorgio visiting his student brother in France seems to be for him to learn from another Jewish student about the Dachau concentration camp. The film seems to just remember late on that Alberto is dying and does away with him quickly (we also get no sense of Giorgio's and Malnate's friendship - and the effect on it of Micol's seduction of Malnate - before the latter drops out of the picture). Everything flits by in a tidy 90 minutes without effectively framing Giorgio as its central character other than a few sporadic bits of narration (he is even absent from the film's last few scenes). Ennio Guarnieri's (CAMILLE 2000) studio and interior photography is lovely enough, but the location exteriors are full of shaky tracking shots and wobbly pans. Although reviewers described Sanda as hammy and Testi - after Gian Maria Volante (FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), De Sica didn't care who was cast in the role - as miscast, both actors' careers received a considerable boost from the film (they would reunite in Mauro Bolognini's THE INHERITANCE). Author Giorgio Bassani disowned the film - and even insisted they drop the hyphen between Finzi and Contini in the title to distinguish it from his source novel - mainly because of the film's portrayal of Giorgio's father who, in the novel, who remained unrepentant and unsympathetic fascist supporter who was not rounded up with the other Ferrara Jews (in the film, his exchange with Micol in the final scene is the film's only truly moving moment). In Christopher Wagstaff's essay for the Arrow Academy booklet on the film, he also points out that the film makes literal what was only imagined and maddeningly unconfirmed in Giorgio's mind, and that De Sica's focus was "the shame and guilt of Italians who supported and tolerated a government which could make alliances with Hitler and visit his atrocities on its own citizens" rather than "to the political, social and economic short-sightedness of one particular community in a historical period when the writing was so clearly on the wall."

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 16 December 1971 (USA)

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison: 

Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL LEFT vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

Arrow Films/Arrow Academy

Region 0 - PAL

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:30:06 (4% PAL speedup) 1:34:24
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.57 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.85:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.53 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate PAL

Bitrate NTSC

Audio Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films/Arrow Academy

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with actor Lino Capolicchio (4:3; 12:57)
• Interview with screenwriter Ugo Pirro (4:3; 13:09)
• Interview with composer Manuel de Sica (4:3; 9:14)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 3:44)
• 23-page booklet featuring an essay by Christopher Wagstaff and translated comments by Manuel De Sica
• and Ugo Pirro, as well as a reprinted 1972 interview with Vittorio de Sica
• Reversible Cover

DVD Release Date: 8 August 2011
Amaray

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio:
Columbia

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Filmographies
• Bonus Trailers

DVD Release Date:
June 19th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 28

 

Comments

Arrow Academy's edition of GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI has been transferred from a brand new master of the film that is generally attractive. Edge enhancement is minor, but the 10 year old, single-layered, Region 1 transfer looks poor in comparison to the brighter and more colorful new PAL image. The NTSC is visually very dark and greenish/blue with less detail. The Arrow audio has been cleaned up, but it is not hiss-free (and there is one particularly harsh passage in the music score during the opening credits). The newly translated English subtitles on the PAL discs are error-free (although they spell the dog's name "Jor" even though the liner notes booklet's excerpt from the novel spells it "Yor").

***

The out-of-print Columbia only has some text bio screens as extras but the Arrow Academy has subtitled three interviews featured on the Italian-only 2003 DVD from Medusa. The director's son, composer Manuel De Sica (who also scored the film) interviews actor Lino Capolicchio and screenwriter Ugo Pirra, and addresses the camera directly in his own interview segment. The film's trailer (with awful sound quality) has also been subtitled. The 23-page liner notes booklet (text alignment issues aside) is quite an informative read with discussion of the differences between the novella and the film and a frank analysis of its shortcomings, as well as some comments by Manuel De Sica and Ugo Pirro, and a reprinted interview with Vittorio de Sica.

  - Eric Cotenas

 



DVD Menus
Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL LEFT vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC
RIGHT
 

 


Screen Captures

 

Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


  Arrow Films/Arrow Academy - Region 0 - PAL TOP vs. Columbia - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

Arrow Films/Arrow Academy

Region 0 - PAL

Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

 




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